Just over a year after Measure D, the “Berkeley vs. Big Soda” campaign, was passed and implemented, evidence from a new University of California, Berkeley, study is showing a 21% drop in consumption of soda and other sugary beverages in the city’s low-income neighborhoods. The measure gave the city license to levy a penny-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.
While Berkeley, the first U.S. city to pass a “soda tax,” saw a substantial decline in the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks in the months following implementation of the tax in March 2015, neighboring San Francisco, where a soda-tax measure was defeated, and Oakland, saw a 4% increase, according to a study published in the October issue of American Journal of Public Health (2016; 106 ).
More than two dozen U.S. cities have attempted to pass soda taxes, and failed. In June, Philadelphia became the second city in the nation to push through a tax on sugar-sweetened drinks. Philadelphia’s tax, which will take effect in January 2017, will also cover diet drinks. San Francisco, Oakland and Boulder, Colorado, are endeavoring to get soda-tax measures on the ballot in the near future.
Overall, the results suggest that a general excise tax coupled with a public-awareness campaign can have major benefits, the authors said. “Low-income communities bear the brunt of the health consequences of obesity and diabetes, so this decline in soda and sugary beverage consumption is very encouraging,” said study senior author Kristine Madsen, MD, MPH, associate professor of public health at UC Berkeley. “We are looking for tools that support people in making healthy choices, and the soda tax appears to be
an effective tool.”